- Lesson details
In this video series master sculptor Ed Fraughton creates sculptures of animals almost entirely from imagination. You will gain a unique insight into the thought processes and working habits of a seasoned master sculptor. In this video lesson Ed Fraughton creates a parrot on a perch using oil based clay.
- Chavant Le Beau Touché Clay
- 4″ x 4″ Piece of Wood
- Cyanoacrylate Glue
- 3/4″ Thick Melamine Square
- Modeling Stand
- Sculpture House Rake Tools
- Electric Drill
- Threaded Dowel
- Wrench (or Hammer)
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from imagination. You will gain a unique insight into the thought processes and working habits
of a season master sculptor.
In this video lesson, Ed Fraughton creates a parrot on a perch using oil based clay.
is something new for all of us. We’re going to create a parrot. We’ve used some of New
Masters Academy's stock photos to get an idea of what a parrot looks like, what
the composition might look like. This is a simplified version of starting a new project,
something you’ve never done before. Tackling something entirely different
and new and probably unconventional.
With this parrot we discovered this very long tail, and I started with this 4 x 4 armature
and simple put clay on the armature. I wanted to show how easy it is to build a piece of
sculpture without even worrying about an armature. Armatures are quite intimidating sometimes
and discourage students before they even begin. What we’re going to cover is just the basic
blocking in process, showing you how simple it is to look at a form or a shape or an idea
and begin blocking it in in clay. I’ve had no predetermined idea about how to build an
armature. I purposely picked a subject that’s very straight and almost post-like so that
it would be very easy to build without an armature.
I’m using a Chavant clay made by a company in Red Bank, New Jersey. And it’s a professional
style of clay that I like a little better than the newer clays that they sell which
are basically inert, and they won’t affect, you know, if you’re allergic to sulfur or
formaldehyde that’s in this version of clay. This was the old styling clay, but for sculptures
the newer clays to me tend to be a little bit stickier. Look for the name Le Beau Touche,
which is their new clay. I’ll think you’ll find it pleasant to work with. It’s a nice clay.
I’ve built the small tool that I hold in my hand, and I purchased the larger tool from
Sculpture House in New York, which supplies sculpture supplies to sculptors all over the
world. So with no further adieu, let’s get started.
For this lesson we’re going to try sculpting birds. I start with my usual bevy of tools,
but in the end I’ll probably use only three. A small tool, but most of this work will be
done with this large rake tool. What we’ll do, I’ve just taken a piece of 4 x 4. I’m
looking at a parrot. The idea of doing a parrot. I’ve never done a parrot before, but we’ll
take our chances and see what we can do. We have our clay and it’s a little bit warm
so I can cut it easier with my tool I think today. I’ve simply glued the 4 x 4 in place
so hopefully it won’t wiggle around and move with the cyanoacrylate glue just for a quick job.
The clay I’m using is Chavant, and it’s Chavant professional grade plastilina. And
I enjoy working with it because it’s a clean clay. It keeps my tools clean. They don’t
get gooey and sticky. And it really responds well. So I enjoy the feel of it. It has its
limitations. For example, when you need to make a mold you have to seal this clay; otherwise,
it’ll kill the action of the catalyst, particularly if you’re using a silicone material. Silicone
is a catalytic set, and the sulfur in the clay kills the action of the catalyst so you
have to make sure you seal the clay if you’re doing to make a mold. Of course, the only
way we can convert what we do into something more permanent, clay is a temporary material.
So if you’re going to convert into a more permanent material and eventually cast it
in bronze, for example, you want to make sure you seal it and make a real good mold because
when you make the mold you’re going to destroy the clay model.
So I’ll just push this clay to hook it in here. We’ll do a bird that’s sitting on
the log. Sometimes it helps to push the clay into the wood first so it’ll give it a sticking
surface. We’re going to do a parrot. A colorful bird, has some long tail feathers, which is
the reason I selected this simple 4 x 4 piece of wood to start with. So it’ll have a trailing
tail. We’ll just block it in quickly. It’s not sticking quite as well as I would like
yet. Birds, if you look at anatomy books there is a book by, the man’s name is Knight,
on animal anatomy. He doesn’t use photographs. He just uses drawings but one of the things
he does is he illustrates the bird’s skeleton. And in each of these lessons I’m emphasizing
the need for understanding the skeletal frame. I call that frame the architectural frame
upon which everything else fits. Again, if you take the skeleton away and just model
the surface you’re looking for planes and angles and lines and things. You’re really
not seeing the shape of the animal you’re doing.
And birds, though they’re quite different, still have the same anatomical features that
other creatures have. The study of evolution, of course, we believe that we’re related
to dinosaurs. They have the same basic muscular frame and skeletal frame as we do. The bones
have exactly the same names. If we study the anatomy of ancient creatures, we’ve at least
been told that some birds have evolved from dinosaurs so they have the same basic features.
They have a backbone. They have a clavicle and a scapula and all these things. So right
now we’re just simply looking for a shape to put on. Then we’ll talk a little bit
more about the bony structure underneath. The only thing I have to go by are photographs,
and I’m just sort of looking through things on the internet. Again, I don’t copy pictures
that I’ve seen, photographs. I don’t make drawings that I copy because that’s two-dimensional
and I’m creating something in three dimensions. So the best resource really is go out and
work from life. So if you go to an aviary or a zoo or someplace where they have especially
more exotic creatures that are not native to this area then you can study directly from
the animal that you want to do. Birds being an example.
Parrots are not indigenous to the area that I come from. I’m from Utah which is up in
the mountains of the central mountain states. The altitude is pretty high and we never see
parrots there. So this is a new creature for me. But as I think about this, every bird
has a rib cage. When you have a bird for a meal it’s a good opportunity to study those
anatomical structures. The breast bone always sticks way out there. There is a lot of great
meat on the breastbone because that’s where the power comes in the wings, extending and
flapping the wings. And so that’s where a bird gets its power. So you have to make
sure you’re thinking of that breastbone sticking out there.
Then it’s amazing how the bird’s wings when they’re extended, just the order of
feathers that control the flow of air and how they can control the tips of their feathers
like the, again, if you get a good anatomy book it’ll show you all the primary and
secondary feathers and all the names of the feathers and what their function is and how
they fit over the bird. It’s really an aerodynamic function that they perform. They have to be
shaped right. They have to perform well. They catch the air but it’s, if you look through
a microscope with feathers you’ll see that there is a lot of porosity in feathers, and
it’s like a huge, almost like a venetian blind that opens the feathers open and close
and let air flow through. But when the wing is in the position that it has to catch the
air those little segments close up to grab the air and help elevate the body of bird.
Of course, birds have hollow bones so that they’re much lighter. The bones have a tremendous
amount of power. The matrix of the marrow in the bone is such that it’s almost built
like a honeycomb design that they now put in jet airplane wings to build strength
and yet weight a lot less.
Simple little design here. So as I work I’m thinking always of this anatomical frame.
So now from here we’re just working on this side. This side, of course, we’ve done nothing
with yet. But if it’s sculpture we don’t want it to be flat so we have to develop both sides equally.
The spinal column in birds twists just like it does in mammals, but not
so much so the head of a bird is made so that it rotates the atlas bone is a little different
configuration so it can really rotate the head much more.
Sometimes just blocking in as I’m doing now creates some interesting happy accidents
that give expression. Oftentimes you’ll want to hang on to those happy expressions.
Now you see how it looks like the leg is out here. Well, it can’t be there.
It has to be underneath so it supports the weight.
The calcaneus bone on the bird is back so the
leg is coming forward to sit in this position so the leg will actually be back here somewhere.
The hip will be down in here. What’s tricky is to figure out what the arm looks like,
what the wing looks like when it’s folded up. How do you take a huge wing and fold it
up. It’s just like it is with us. You have a wrist here that has feathers. The primary
feathers coming down, and there is a joint in the end of the wing up here. It comes down
to an elbow, and it goes back to a shoulder blade. In fact, the shoulder blades show from
the back and are really quite prominent. There is always a nice scapula in there sort of
floating in open space. If you look at the back of a bird you’ll see that scapula with
a different set of feathers over that.
Now it’s starting to take a little bit of shape. Proportion wise I’m looking at the
head, and the head needs to be smaller and oftentimes what’s around the head is what
makes it look big. The feathers that are sticking out. The beak itself comes out from under
those feathers. You could see this could be any variety of birds yet until we start working
on the refinement, putting more detail in. This bird has a little bit of tuft of feathers
sticking out of the top on the crop. The neck needs to be a little longer, and the neck
is covered with feathers. If you feel the neck of a bird, and many people have pet birds,
parrots or small birds often. You can feel the neck, and we feel it it’s way under
there. So you can cut a lot of texture in for the feathers without cutting into the
neck. In most creatures you do you have to be very careful we cut through the fur because
you don’t want to cut into the figure itself or especially cut through the skeletal frame.
This parrot has sort of cascading feathers that come out this way to some extent.
Not quite that far. But here’s the important part; it’s the shoulder. Think about the
neck coming down and the trapezius muscle on back just as it is in humans and other
animals. Then this joint of the wrist coming down like this and extending forward. It’s
interesting because when you do a bird where the bird is in flight or it rests you’ll
always see a nice little feather or two feathers sticking out here. If I had my anatomy book
with me I could refer to them by name. They remind me of the thumb on the wrist and these
as being very long fingers, the feathers themselves draping down,
folding very carefully one over the other.
simplified designs right now. If we wanted to save this later we could actually remove
this, put an armature there and actually stick the piece on an armature so it would have
something stiff to support it. The bottom of this chest, the breastbone. The breastbone
will come down and then it’ll end, fold underneath here so we’ll get a nice edge
there, an angle. I may have to add a little armature to this to support it if I can’t make it stick well enough.
Now they’ll be a little bit of a hollow here where that
wrist joint comes here, but you want to see the arm behind, so you’re going to actually
want to see where the elbow comes down in here. So you’ll have a structural element
that gives the proper form to that wing. It’s a little like an umbrella folded up. It takes
up very little space. So the wing is a little like an umbrella in that it folds up and takes
up very little space. Of course, when it’s extended then it fills a broad area to capture
the air. The bird is actually swimming through the air. The air is like a river but it’s
air instead of liquid.
So here is the feeling of the wrist joint. Here’s the upper arm. Here’s the elbow
down here. Then they’ll be feathers sticking out behind that and part of it behind that
is the scapula. All this stuff just folds up into a nice, neat little package.
This area right in here looks a little like in a human where you come to the sternal notch,
which is the top of the sternum. So you’ll see the top of this breastbone.
I'm not sure about how the clavicle fits in here because I don’t have a skeleton to look at right
at this moment. But again, if I get the shoulder right it has the same feeling that humans
do. The breastbone, the sternocleidomastoid muscle is going back to connect the neck.
Some birds have very long, elegant S-shaped necks. They can bend them in all sorts of
directions. So when you cover that with feathers, and the feathers on this bird not a parrot
seem to radiate like the collars you see in paintings of the English royalty or Dutch
royalty back in the 1400, 1500, and 1600s. So it radiates around the neck like a big
collar and elegantly colored as well. You can actually create an illusion of color with
your sculpting by the depth of the shadows and the direction of the shadows.
For example, if you’re doing a flag, a United States flag has stars and stripes. You can
create stars and have them very smoothly finished. Then the blue background you can put a very
heavy texture in the field of blue to catch the light and make it look dark. Then on the
red lines, of course you can use white in between very smooth, but the red lines—I’ve
always thought of red as being a vibrant color, so what does it look like if you happen to
be color blind? To catch the light and to vibrate I think vertical lines work better
because the parallax of your eyes tend to vibrate as they see vertical lines that interfere
with one another. So I think a vertical line is a clever way to try to create the illusion
of red in sculpture.
See how that collar somehow works a little bit here. Again, this is a quick study and
just a very cryptic way of going about building a simplified bird. Before you do a real complex
one you want to understand it in simplistic terms.
Now what I could do here is if I wanted
to put an armature here I could just take a piece of wire, drill a hole in the top of
this and stick it in. I may be forced to do that in a few minutes
as I narrow the base of the bird down a little bit.
There is a set of feathers that also come down this way
off the top bone here. I think the important thing to notice as a student is that as I
do things I’m always, I’m kind of talking to myself or talking to you because I’m
thinking about what is it that I’m trying to see. Sculpture is a matter of learning
to see. You already have a certain level of innate talent. Eye and hand coordination,
so why can’t you do this? Well, you’re not sure what you’re looking for. So if
I can help you learn how to look at something then I’ve achieved my purpose, I guess.
But that’s what art is all about, learning to see. Once you can see something you may
be able to see something that nobody else can see. I think the extraordinary artists
that we think of like Michelangelo, he saw the world just a little differently than most
other artists during his time. There was something extra there.
In 1968 I did my first monument for San Diego at Presidio Park, and it was cast in Florence,
Italy. It was a great experience. I decided I’m going to go to Florence and I’m going
to watch the process and learn something about the ancient way of casting. I knew they didn’t
have a lot of the modern tools that we have in America. I thought I want to understand
the process, and I’m going to go spend some time there, so I did. While I was there not
only investigating the foundry and overseeing this casting, I thought I’m going to go
on a quest. I’m going to try to discover what it was that was so unique about Michelangelo
and Rembrandt as well and see if I can learn something from that and perhaps incorporate
some of the things they learned into my own work as I develop. The thing I discovered
was that they both knew more technically than anybody else their day. In fact, Michelangelo
helped established quarries higher in the Carrara Mountains where the more pure white
marble was, which is what he wanted for his projects.
But he also knew more about the carving techniques and even painting. When he painted the Sistine
he hired painters and craftsmen to help him mix paints. They weren’t doing the job properly
so he got rid of them and mixed his own paints. Ground his own pigments. The blue was something
unique. It was this special stone from I think Pakistan. He knew he could get the best blues
if he used this particular stone. Following his methods of carving marble and painting
you discover that Michelangelo really knew more than anybody else in his time and in his place.
Leonardo da Vinci was very curious about materials and so he explored everything. He tried to
understand how birds fly. He drew their wings. He drew the currents in the air like the currents
in water. He studied turbulence. He knew more about the principles of aviation than anybody
during this time, even designed flying machines that, of course, he was never able to build
himself. But they are in many respects the basis of the airplanes that we have today
and helicopters. So he was striving to understand the principles.
I’ve always believed the artists are really the creative thinkers of a society. They’re
not wishful thinkers. They’re curious people who need to find out how things work. So they
study materials. They chisel wood. They chisel rock, marble, granite, sandstone. So they’re
discovering the limitations of materials and where you can use it, where you can’t use
it. Wood, I was surprised when I got to Florence that the frames around the doors were not
made of wood. They were made of the material that’s more abundant in Italy, and that’s
marble. You go into a seemingly inexpensive building, some not even well-kept on the outside,
and you go in the inside and here’s this beautiful staircase and marble flooring and
marble panels on some of the walls, a marble fireplace. So it’s very elegant. But that’s
the material they had available so they really worked a lot in stone and marble. The streets
are lined with stone that are chiseled so that your foot has traction on it. The streets
are so narrow that you can’t hardly fit a car, maybe a single car. The sidewalks are
not sidewalks. They’re just like the edge of a gutter. You just step up there to let
the car go by, but there is barely enough space to keep your balance. It’s a whole
different style of living. I thought this is a new way of looking at the world.
See what this little thing I’m doing on the wing right here is doing to the character
of that wing because I’m looking for that structure and trying to differentiate this
part where the fingers would be radiating back to the—again, here’s the wrist. I need
a little concave shape in there. I’m not drawing lines. I’m creating forms. There
are no lines in nature. Remember that. They’re just forms that fit together. The way they
fit together create the illusion of a line. So these feathers again will be layered. One
feather has to fit over the top of the other. When you create these layers you need to figure
out how do those layers fit together. Finding these layers of how the feathers fold one
over another, and I don’t have good enough reference material to really get into a lot
of the detail, but you get a sense of, you know, I’m measuring with my eye.
I haven’t made any measurements of the length of the bird or the length of the bird’s
head. Two, three, four. I’m looking at a picture on just something off the internet
just to get a vague idea. The lower mouth of a parrot is an interesting thing because
it’s like a big cup or a bowl. It’s amazing how dexterous they can be with that beak that
can crack nuts. They can peel things apart. They can do some pretty intricate things.
So we want to create that feeling of that bowl shape that actually comes forward toward
the upper beak. I’m depending a little bit on silhouette here to get a feeling for what
I’m trying to see. This part of the chest should drop down a little straighter. I’ll
use my big tool. Again, notice on the big tool I rake this across the front and it makes
texture lines. Well, if I’m thinking about it carefully enough I can actually use those
texture lines to indicate features. Typically I rake across the long line, so I’d probably
rake across the feathers. Depending on the size tool I use or the size texture lines
I use that’ll create color. Of course, parrots have a great variety of color.
For example, up here I see a red color and here a blue color. So how do you differentiate
those colors? When you finish the piece of bronze, if you convert it into a bronze then
you can control the patina to some extent and put chemicals on the surface of the bronze
that’ll turn it black or a dark blue color here, and you can actually do red patinas.
You could put a red patina up here. You can actually get yellow patinas. In this area
right in here, this particular parrot has an area of yellow. So if I just give it a
little smoother texture it’ll tend to reflect more light and look lighter. So you create
the illusion of color where there really is none.
The tips of these wing feathers on many birds like a dove, I’ve watched doves quite a
bit. Their wings oftentimes will cross in the back. These feathers come together so
much that they actually, the wing tips cross over one another almost like folding your
hands or something. But they just fold into a neat little package
so we get the illusion of the feathers coming down. Some may be rolling out from the inside
here so you get a little bit of—not just a flat surface, it may have a curve to it.
to take a stiff little piece of metal, drill a hole.
Then I’ll do what every mechanic warns you not to do and that’s use a perfectly good wrench for a hammer.
And it would be good if I wanted to put any kind of attachment up here. I wouldn’t want to hit the end
of this threaded dowel but I would want to put a nut on the end so I could tap on the
nut, and then it would still preserve the piece of metal. But for this purpose, the
whole is just slightly smaller in size to the rod so you know it’s stable.
Now we simply take the animal, the bird, and we’ll push it down on this armature so it’ll stiffen
it up a little bit. I don’t really anticipate moving it much. It’s sticking out of the
neck there so I’ve got to lean it over just a wee bit. The nice thing about not putting
any detail in piece like this to start with is you can always make changes. It leaves
you with a tremendous amount of freedom and flexibility. Now I’m tilting just a little
so it doesn’t go through the neck again. I can rotate the head.
I want to create some character in this, but I can’t do it as long as I’m fighting the balance of the
piece. I think this is a good way to do that. I can now bring his legs back to where the
armature comes and give him a little better balance.
Your eye is a great measure of balance, and I’ve noticed when you’re doing animals,
horses, other creatures your eye tells you if it’s off-balance. Let’s say a horse
going down a hill. The horse has a lot of momentum, so all of the weight, even the rider
is if you have a rider on the horse, is leaning forward. If you’re a skier you understand
that because you don’t ski with body straight up and down when you’re going down a steep
hill. You’re leaning forward a tremendous amount. The center of balance has to keep
up with the momentum that you’re traveling.
So in this case the bird is just seated in a docile position on this stump, but his legs
are going to be way back in here, and the claws may be sticking out here a little bit.
We may even lift it up a little if we want to put something under it. We could put a
small branch under him if we want to get it back even more. Then we can convert this into
a branch of a tree to make it look more finished and more natural.
I want the weight of the bird to be balanced.
His elbow goes back, but he should be just slightly forward of the center of where his feet go.
Now for this tail if I don’t blend the tail right into the log I could add another piece
of armature to that. A bird uses a tail to balance, so if I add something for the tail
I can just simply take a straight piece like this, a wire and run that up through the body.
That’s enough of an anchor. I don’t need to hook it to that upright piece. Anything
I have sticking out I can just jam it up into the body, and it’ll hold together. Remember,
this is temporary. It needs to be able to hold the weight of the molding material if
we decide to do a mold. What this allows us to do now is lift that tail feather, that
long trailing feather and these exotic birds have these tremendously long tails, and some
parrots have tails of that sort. But it allows us to create an airspace behind the tail so
it’ll seem a little more light.
I’m going to move this head forward a little bit. I’m making decisions as I go along.
I’m not stuck on anything. I don’t want to put too much detail in it and have it too
finished. I may make a change, and it may be a very drastic change. If you’ve done
a lot of work on the face and beak and the end of the wing here, if you’ve done too
much on all of those things you’ll be reluctant to change anything. Nothing is sacred until
you’ve finished it and are ready to cast it. But we can always make changes. Again,
I tell people my life is made up of a series of mistakes carefully corrected. Well, that’s
what it is. You’re always changing. Clay is temporary material. It’ll let you put
it on, take it off, change it, push it.
In fact, in computers a few years ago they discovered something they could do with images.
They call it morphing. Morphing means you do something and you change it to something
else. You’ve seen on television, for example, an ad that may have a picture of somebody
that morphs into a picture of somebody else. You can age people that way. You can have
a young picture and then age it by morphing it into an older image. In fact, there are
even programs that do that when they’re looking for missing children who have been
missing for 15 years, 20 years. They can age the child’s features and face and make it
into an older person. That’s called morphing. So the ultimate morphing tool really in my
judgment is clay because that’s what you’re forever doing is changing it from one thing to another.
Under all these features were not seeing where the pelvis goes in the bird, but we need to
understand where the spinal column goes, where the rib cage attaches. There is a big hollow
just like in a human, and open area where the viscera is that is not all bonied down
here. That’s where the internal organs are. So the rib cage comes around and helps support
those internal organs, but the rib cage is a little different shape in a bird than it
is in a mammal. But you can see the feeling we’re creating of that so now we know where
the breast bone comes down, the equivalent of our sternum. Then down here we’re going
to have a pelvic girdle, and out of the pelvic girdle comes a leg. The leg will come down
the femur part of that. Quite often that’s very long in some birds, but it’ll make
a turn here where the—you know on a chicken you call it the drumstick. That’s the drumstick
part that connects to the second joint which connects to the hip. So it’s the femur,
and it’s a tibia and fibula.
So the bird is balanced back here on the heel bone, which is again in a critter like a human
or another land mammal it would be called the calcaneus. Well, it’s a very different
form for a bird. Then the tibia and fibula come forward, and then the phalanges, you know,
the fingers come forward and they grip.
They’re used for grasping things. In an eagle the talons
are used to kill other rodents and other birds,
so they have a tremendous grip with their talons, with their hands or fingers.
Between the beak and the hands and fingers—I mean they don’t have radiating fingers like
we do that can rotate and clutch like that. But to some extent we can do the same thing.
They have this great gripping motion, and they do have the equivalent of a thumb on
the opposite side. I think, if I recall, owls—I’m not sure if they do not have that. They have
three talons that they grip with, but they’re built differently than other birds. I’d
have to go back and research that. But it gives you an idea of how structurally they’re
built to do what they need to do.
I’m hoping just developing this much of the bird will give you an idea of the blocking
in process and what you’re looking for. Now the tail comes out of the ileum just like
it does. In other creatures you’d have an ileum and an ischium, the little bone that’s
at the root of the pelvis. So when you put in these tail features realize that that’s
where they come out of. They come down the spinal column, the pelvis, and then these
feathers connect so they’ve got to point to wherever the pelvis is and radiate out
of that specific point. Otherwise, if you just hook them on they don’t have much meaning.
So in some cases and in the case of a parrot you’ll notice it has this huge tail, but
it’s using this tail for leverage, so it’s pointing it’s tail in and out to adjust
its balance as it sits on this log. Simple way to balance. Imagine when the leaves are,
the branches are blowing in a stiff wind. How do they maintain their balance? They’re
holding on, of course, with their talons, but they’re also controlling balance with
the placement of their tail.
I think I have—the body really should cut in more right in here. As we modify this and
morph it into something hopefully better, you know, we take a chance. We did it that
well the first time. We don’t want to get stuck on any one feature. We want to try different
things. Let’s come down here and put that end of breast bone. This is where the wishbone
comes in, I believe. We want to put it a little bit lower and give a sense of the body coming
way down here. I think that looks better.
A lot of what you’re doing, we can’t always know everything so we’re using our powers
of observation and experience, and we’re letting our emotional analytical side, artistically,
we’re letting that kick in as well and start telling us, does it look right or doesn’t
it? We’re trying to make it look like a parrot. Well, does it look like a parrot?
I’m not so sure. I have to keep trying things until it looks like a parrot. So we use both
the right and the left side of our brain when we create art. We think of the right side
as being the creative. That’s where we attribute a lot of the ability of an artist to talent.
Well, talent alone comes from the right side. But if we don’t use reason and logic and
research and study and a lot of other things with it, then it doesn’t reach its full
potential. So we have to use both the right and the left side of the brain. So we’re
using the creative side. We’re using the analytical side. The analytical side is what
dictates that we measure things, that we’re more careful about our proportions, anatomy,
and the technical parts. The right side has more to do with design. Once we understand
design principles then we can look at it maybe with the idea of dividing things into the
divine proportions using the Greek principles of the golden mean. It’s really our intuitive
sense that tells us better than our reason and logic aspect, although we can get there
using that pure analytical information.
I think that’s beginning to look a little like a parrot. I’ve never done one and I’m
not looking at one now. Perhaps it gives you an idea of what the blocking in process is
like. You’re looking at the big picture. You’re not resolving anything until you’ve
got the final form where it needs to be. A lot of people will take the basic form and
then just smooth it out, polish it, and that’s it. So they stylize and simplify, but in these
lessons my hope of what I can give you is if you can do it following classic principles
and rules then you can always simplify later. It’ll add more substance to what you’re doing.
So now on the other side we haven’t done anything yet, really. See that? But it looks
like we’re kind of on the right track. So now we can go over here and repeat the same
process. Then we can begin the refinement. I think we’ll talk about the feathers,
and again talking about color.
material that allows you to make any kind of mistake you want. I mean just be bold and
try things, and if they don’t quite work just change it and you haven’t lost anything.
So we’re not putting any detail at all into this. We’re just looking for big shapes.
Without being able to see the bird I’m doing a lot of guessing here, but my guessing is
based on years of experience and understanding of anatomy. I did gross anatomy studies when
I was a student, and I’m always studying and learning more about the structure of things.
There is almost a temptation do a stylization as well. Now on this side I’ve got a nice
shape coming here. But, I don’t have the feeling of this joint in the wrist so I need
to build that up.
Wherever those bones are, it’s like looking at the wrist. The wrist is all bony. Everywhere
the skeletal frame articulates it’s a bony structure. So the way I define the elbow and
the wrist in the bird, I just need to build a point of articulation right there so you
understand there is an architectural frame that all of those feathers and muscles and
things are fitting on. Hopefully that helps illustrate that. And like the fingers, there
is a little feather that comes forward here as these other feathers come out and become
the primary feathers on the wing, the feathers that are the leading edge. If you were talking
about an airplane you’d call it the leading edge. These are the feathers that lead the
wing into the wind. Some of these others fill in now.
Now, we’ve got the wrist joint here. We’ve got the scapula in back. The end of the scapula
somewhere down in here is where the humerus bone would fit, and then the elbow, the humerus
is going to come down this way when the wing is folded up like that and then come back
up toward the wrist. The skin across the top just fills that space in. Of course, it’s
covered with feathers. But I’m still trying to find the skeletal frame underneath to define
the shape of the body in the wing. Another interesting thing that we can do, and I have
not done that today, but I could and should, perhaps. Again, I don’t want to limit myself
or tempt myself to try to just copy what I see.
But we can find pictures, just an almost unlimited supply of photographs now over the internet.
And we can also get on YouTube or other programs that collect movies. I watch TED Talks;
I watch a number of things on my computer. YouTube generally has a collection of really important
material, sometimes full-length films. You might try to just put parrot, videos of parrots.
Parrots in flight, parrots just standing on a branch. See the wind blowing. See how they
flex their arms, their wings, how they move their heads. You can study animals and people
in motion just hooking up the internet. I have a huge monitor, a screen in my studio.
I finished a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt. Now, when I use the word portrait most people
think of a painting. But you do sculptured portraits as well. But it’s a full-length
portrait and an equestrian portrait, so it’s Teddy Roosevelt on a horse
during the Spanish-American War.
So while I’m working I’m hooked up to the internet with my huge television screen,
and I found—there are actually movies that were made of some of the Rough Riders, the
group that Teddy Roosevelt commanded for which he later on got the Congressional Medal of
Honor, by the way. But it showed how the commander is on a horse and leads a group of men down
a path or down a road and gives them a command with his sword. The troops kneel down and
fire, but they line up so one rank fires, and another rank goes forward and fires. I
got an idea of the military history just watching those films. So it gives you a way of viewing
things in action. But remember, it’s two-dimensional so it’s very tough to do sculpture. But
of course, if the camera shoots from a different angle, or if the subject moves then you get
a better sense of its proper dimensions and different views from front and from the rear
and from the sides and from below and from above. Sculpture you have all these angles
that you need to create to make it right.
Drawing or painting you’re doing a sketch and you’re just symbolically using a line
to indicate a form. I tend to repeat myself for a reason, but there are no lines in nature.
This looks like a line. This looks like a line. But if you rotate it the line disappears
and it becomes something else. So sculpture requires that you be able to move around your
subject and really study it. Study the gestures, the actions, the movement of the skeletal frame.
I’m not sure how these wing-tip feathers would come together. Oftentimes they fold
one over another, a little like we do when we put our fingers like this. Some people
do it this way, and some people do it this way. Try it the opposite way, and it feels
uncomfortable. We always have a tendency to be either right-handed or left-handed. The
other way, same with crossing your arm. When you cross arms like this, if you cross it
the other way and put this one over this way somehow it feels weird.
I think animals are the same way. So probably if the feathers cross over behind a bird maybe
they tend to do it left-handed or right-handed. I don’t know that. Which brings up another
idea that when you’re doing an animal, the thing that I feel that really works and that
helps my work a lot, is that I develop sort of a personal relationship with the animal.
I talk to the animal. I look at it. It looks at me. We look back and forth, and we kind
of talk to each other. A bird like this might croak or make a noise. I may imitate the noise
and croak back, and it croaks back. Pretty soon we’re communicating on a very primitive
basis. It helps you kind of climb inside the skin of your subject and become like that
creature. With horses especially I find I become one with the other then I can sort
of understand it better. That personality begins to come out in the work. You begin
to feel it and see it, smell it. You smell the smells that around when you’re working
on it. So all of those little senses and hints really help your work.
It’s a hard thing to explain, but imagine a musician, for example, telling a story about
animals or birds. You can see a musician or hear a musician writing a piece of music about
whales. It’s hard to imagine without using those beautiful sounds that quails make and
blending those sounds into whatever the musical chords you select use, you know, the composition.
That’s kind of what I’m doing here is I’m looking for a personality, and yet I’m
just looking at a picture. But I know if I were at a zoo or at an aviary where I could
see the animal and communicate a little bit with it, it would help my work. Those things
would automatically begin to show up in the work.
Okay, I think we’ve got a basic blocked-in, at least an outline. I can see a whole lot
of resolution is needed to really make this into something good. But that’s how you
start. Now, if you’re a beginning sculptor this is much more progress than simply making
a shape and then drawing lines on the outside surface. The idea that I want to get across
is these are forms. These are positive forms that when one form fits next to another and
is treated in a certain way you can feel the form underneath. That’s what creates the
illusion of the line where there really is no line. I’ve got to study these feathers
a little to see how this overlapping of feathers would create very small planes. Of course,
the feather has a very stiff support system.
They used to make pens out of feathers
and cut that stem that’s hollow
on the inside. Again, it makes it weigh very little so it’s lightweight. You can see
just a little something up here is needed just to help define that shape.
Again, it’s a little like this—we were looking at the scapula yesterday. The bird
has a scapula. The scapula is very long. This is the right shoulder but it’s shaped very
much like a human scapula. It has a point at the top of it like this where the trapezius
muscle hooks on and comes up behind the head to support the head. The supraspinatus muscle
fits in there, and of course the coracoid process that really protects the ball-socket
joint of the humerus. So a bird will have the same thing. It will have a different shape,
a different dimension, but it still has to be there. So without that then suddenly this
becomes very weak because it doesn’t have any points of articulation. So sculpture once
again is a skeletal frame with the connecting tissue. The frame is what tells you where
the muscles should go. Then when you pull the skin across the those muscles you tie
them together. In this case we’re going to add blocks of feathers. We probably want
those feathers to look like they’re growing out from the skull and out from whatever part
they cover. We see some shape coming there. In refining there are a lot of techniques
we can teach you in refining individual aspects, individual parts, but a lot of that comes
with self-discovery. If you can make it this far then I suggest do more research. Get models.
Go look at the animal that you’re sculpting. Study it carefully. In fact, sometimes it’s
worth it just to spend an hour watching the creature and watching the way it moves its
head and rotates or balances itself.
So unless you learn to observe you’re not going to learn how to do much. It’s a little
like somebody who wants to learn a song but they’re not willing to listen to hear the
right notes. They just go ahead and sing, and they sing a lot of sour notes, not knowing
that they just haven’t listened. My first music teacher, I was learning to play the
trombone. I had played the drums and so I didn’t have to listen so much tone with
drums. Then I started playing a trombone to learn to play the baritone horn in the high
school band. That was instrument through high school and college. I remember when I learned
the basic notes on the trombone and how to hold your lips and vibrate the lips so that
it created a sound, but I recall when I had my first baritone horn lesson and I tried
to play some notes that I was reading, and I just wasn’t quite getting there. He said,
“Remember Edward, you cannot play the note unless you can hear it first.” Now, if you
relate that to sculpture, you can’t create it until you can see it first. Then you can
create it. So a lot of what I’m trying to teach you is how to look at things. Once you
learn to look at things and observe then you can replicate what you can see. But until
you can see it, you can’t be expected to really create it. So that’s a huge step,
and one day the light will come on. You’ll say, oh, now I understand.
I don’t understand a lot about this parrot. I’ve done a few birds, not many. But I know
how to look for what I need to find, but I need to have enough material in front of me.
I look at some of those ancient representations of lions by sculptors who had never seen a
lion. They had no idea what a lion looked like. Some of the early depictions of mountain
lions in America when the Spanish first came over really don’t look much like mountain
lions. Even the representations of Indians look like European Indians. They didn’t
look like western American Indians. So if you don’t know what something looks like
you can’t reproduce it.
Now, on the accomplished side to some extent you could say the same thing about Rembrandt
because he didn’t know exactly what Christ look like. He saw people from the mid East
and Holland, and Holland was like America in those days. It was a melting pot. There
were people from all over the world in Holland. So he could find a good model. There were
a number of Jewish people living there, and certainly with the Jewish background that
Christ had he could hire a model that was Jewish. But he dressed them like the Dutch
dressed. He didn’t quite understand how people dressed in the Middle East or the origin
of the Christ and the New Testament. He depicted all those things and the people that were
associated with them, the family of Christ and the associates,
but he dressed them in European clothing.
communication, so today the world has sort of opened up. We have a lot of opportunities
that just didn’t exist not much more than a century ago. We have things available to
us that we should cherish and appreciate because our art ought to be better because of it,
not less than what’s been created in the past. That’s my hope as an artist is to
create something that will make a contribution to my profession, something unique.
I still feel like I want to move these legs slightly back, a little bit of a hair to cover
the little bit of armature that I’ve put in there. Somehow I still need to bring that
leg back a bit right in here, I think. Just moving those toes back helps a little bit
with the balance. But I need something for him to be on, so maybe I’m going to put
a tree branch right in here coming out of the back so it’ll have a little bit better
balance. I don’t know if that’s going to work or not, but we have to just try it.
Now we can use this smaller tool. I haven’t used the small tool at all, but I need to
start looking for smaller landmarks here on the face, the eyes, the shape of the beak.
The shapes of the feathers, the shapes of the joints. So now I can start refining a
little bit. The neck really should, like a neck on a human, there’s a convex shape
and not a concave shape, so I need to create that kind of shape in here. I can probably
do that just with how deep I can cut these grooves between the feathers.
It’s amazing how all creatures that we know have the same muscle groups and same bony
parts. The rib cage and the pelvic girdle, skull, and the arm and leg bones. If you look
at a bat, for example, just imagine look at a bat and then look at a human skeleton and
you’ll see so many similarities. It’s just hard to believe that it all came from
the same source. But I had to. There is an inner connection so somehow even the connecting
points of the muscle to bone, the ligaments. They’re all the same. The same names, just
different shapes. So there is something universal about life that we haven’t really come to
understand yet. It looks like there may be a little top knot right on the front of that
face. Whether it’s all feathers or what, I’m not sure. I always enjoy doing a beak
on an eagle because it’s such a beautiful line the way it juts out and has a bend right
on the end of it. It’s an interesting little design, almost abstract design shapes that
really are beautiful to look at.
We need a front on view so I can get the width right. I’ve just discovered I can take my
computer now and run a series of pictures like a film so that helps me see this a little
bit better. So this knot comes out, but there is a beautiful shape of feathers coming right
around here that surround the eye almost like a woman wearing a mink stole. It comes around
here and then it comes down in front. A lot of this stuff is purely decorative now.
One of the things I like to try to do when I’m sculpting is create the illusion of softness
and hardness. For example, in this joint you get a feeling that there is bone under there.
But here, this is all soft fluffy fur, so it has a different character about it and
a different texture about it when we get to doing textures.
Textures on the surface are extremely important to sculpture because they really describe,
as I say, the material softness or hardness. When you’re doing drapery, for example,
on the human form what kind of material is the drapery? Is it wool? Is it heavy? Is it
woven fabric? Is it very fine fabric? Is it silk? All of those things have a lot to do
with the way you choose to portray something. Again, this little lower beak comes up from
the bottom, not just a beak like on most birds that have a very thin beak. This is like a
big cup, actually a nutcracker in a way.
I’m assuming this leading edge of the wing has to get a bit thinner down here. I’m
not sure how it blends into the body.
I see some long feathers, just a series of yellow feathers that are coming
out from under the red feathers. We’ll do these feathers here. You don’t have to every
feather. A lot of people will go in there now. They want to define every feather. They’ll
draw very careful lines representing the feathers. They’ll draw lines on the feathers to indicate
where the hairy parts of the feather protrude from the stem. They get all this detail, and
yet the feathers look very flat and uniform. So one feather looks like another. Feathers
are like hair on a person. Think of the mane of a horse. Feathers have shape and they relate
one to another in really different ways. They have character. If you study a feather like
the primary feathers, for example, they’re not just straight, flat pointy looking flat
things. They have form to them. So look for that, and then when you create a feather look
for the form in the feather. For example, the front edge of part of a feather may stick
up a little bit. That may have a little knick in it right there where the other part of
the feather doesn’t stick up a little bit. But you don’t want to repeat that same design everywhere.
There is an old expression that variety is the spice of life. That’s really true in
sculpture and in art because if you start doing, again feathers are a good example because
you can start doing feathers that look more like a picket fence than feathers. You don’t
have to draw every one in here, just a symbol of a feather. Like right there, if we have
one feather in one place that has a little bit of character we don’t need a whole lot
of other feathers doing the same thing to say the same thing.
Often when I’ve criticized artist’s works I look at hair or feathers or textures on
a surface, and it looks to me like a picket fence. You can take your tool and go [drilling
sound] like a kid walks along the picket fence, and everything has the sameness, and it’s
very monotonous and boring. But if you look for these differences you can’t ever do
that because it has character in it. One part is not like another part. One feather is not
exactly like the feather next to it. So just leaving a rough line in like that once in
a while is very helpful, or leaving a feathers sticking out from here that has a form to it.
Oftentimes, when you’re blocking in, leave your fingerprint on it. Let people know that
was just a stroke of genius right there, just a spontaneous response to what you’re looking
at. That creates the impression. That’s what impressionistic art was all about. Create
an expression or an impression of what you’re seeing rather than a real feather. See as
we do that it starts taking on more and more character. It may not quite be right but it’s
speaking to us and a couple of feathers coming down here. As we come back to more detail
in these pieces like this, this is really a starting point. We’ll get a little more
familiar with the correct terminology, which I’m not up on right at the moment. But I’ll
make sure I am when we do further refinements so we can talk about the individual characteristics
and structural elements and the design issues.
So this is an expression of a parrot just as a see it from the few reference materials
that I have without really knowing, without having studied the subject so that you can
see how the process of just creating an impression, a quick impression without a lot of thorough
knowledge but through simple observation and reasoning. You know, if you were God creating
this parrot how would you design it? Oftentimes, I find myself designing
something that doesn’t really exist in reality.
Again, on this Teddy Roosevelt piece, it’s an idea. It’s a sketch for a potential equestrian
monument, but there was an infestation of red crabs in Cuba and so I put those in. There
were birds. He was an ornithologist and so he killed and stuffed and collected birds,
not for the sake of killing birds but for the sake of adding them to his collection
that his father was putting together for the museum in New York, the—I’m not thinking
of the right word. The Museum of Natural History.
Emphasize is looking for line, looking for planes. Looking for angles. Looking for the
values of one part of whatever you’re looking at compared to another. That’s values meaning
light and dark value. Of course, color if you’re painting. So the hue and why it looks
the way it does. All of those things are dependent upon light. A famous artist, Arnold Friberg,
once said, asked me, “Ed, do you know what Rembrandt was concerned about when he did
a painting?” I said, “No, Arnold, what was Rembrandt concerned about?” He said
the kind of light and the source of light. It’s true. If you look at Rembrandt’s
work you’ll see how Rembrandt dealt with light and how subtle his lights were and how
he let the subject—when I look into the eyes of a Rembrandt painting, a portrait,
especially those self-portraits he did…
It makes me weep. I mean it conjures up all of my emotions because of the way he dealt
with the subject and made it looks profoundly powerful and real to me. It just touches my
soul. In a way that’s what I’m trying to do with my sculpture, but sculpture is
a whole different thing. The kind of light and the source of light. No. Mine has to look
great in any kind of light, if that’s possible. It needs a certain amount of light to see
some shadows, but when I’m creating sculpture I need plenty of light. I may move it around.
You know, you see me rotate this where, again we’re in a closed environment where it’s
more convenient for the observer if I stand in one place and move the piece around a little
bit. But in my studio I’m constantly moving around the piece as well as moving the piece
around me and moving it in different lights. I may have, I’ve got an overhead north light,
windows that are about 12 feet off the ground to 20 feet, 15 to 20 feet off the ground so
I get this beautiful north light just flooding my big gallery. Then I have artificial lights.
Some of the lights I have are fluorescent. Well, fluorescent spreads the light. If you
have several fluorescent units it’s more like the sky.
The sky actually gives off light when you’re outside. The sun gives off light, and the
sky gives off light. The light that comes from the sun is direct warm light. The light
that comes from the sky is blue. It’s blue because the sun hits particles of atmosphere,
and it sort of fluoresces the atmosphere to a bluish hue. That blue, since it’s the
entire sky casts blue light into all the shadows. So, when you’re a painter and looking for
what kind of light to use, well, you use warm light. Usually if it’s sunlight it’s going
to be direct warm light. Oftentimes, if you use light colors, light values, you can build
it up to an impasto finish, so they would mix a lot of white into the light. In Rembrandt’s
case he even put some kind of gel agent in almost like Vaseline or something to thicken
the paint. He could put it on in big chunks. It almost creates sculpture out of it. So
a lot of Rembrandt’s work looks like relief sculpture. It has form to it. Then in the
darker lights your eye just melts away into the darkness. So transparent dark values and
opaque light values really create an illusion of depth. So painting is very different from
sculpture. Sculpture I’m looking for form. No matter what the lighting condition is,
the form is going to read properly. The different kinds of light you put on it can help it or
hinder it. It can make it look more or less severe, but those relationships if you control
them are powerful. Then the textures that you put on your piece to absorb light or create shadow.
Now see, I just put a hint of several feathers overlapping there. Whether they’re in the
right place or wrong, I don’t know for sure. But somehow it makes it read like it’s got
a lot of detail in it, or getting a lot of detail in it. A lot of these feathers I would
tie a texture at a right angle to that to pull them together. So even in hair and in
feathers this texture at a right angle to the form that you’re creating, to the long
lines and the form unifies it. It pulls it together. It either pulls the skin across
it, or it just somehow holds everything together.
Okay, let’s see here. If I can get a better view of anything.
Of course, we can finish this off by making. I’d probably cut a nice dent in here if I were making a log out of
it because that stark post, although it’s fine to use the post the way it is.
It's just very geometric and doesn’t have much interest, so I should cover that with clay
if I want to do a finished piece. But that all comes later. That’s not important right
now. I always want to think about it even if it’s unimportant. I’m considering it
as I do the rest of the piece and make changes.
Sometimes just a little hint like that will
indicate the feathers enough without going in and putting in a lot of detail.
It's an impression of feathers.
Right there I’m running into armature now,
so I either have to come up with a tricky way to hide the armature or just put the composition around it.
It doesn’t really matter.
I could always still take that off again and remount it.
But for this purpose we’re going to work with what we’ve got so we don’t dwell on the problems.
I’ve pointed it out only to let you know that never feel that you’re stuck on anything
completely until the end. You can always go back and reshape things.
Oftentimes, in horses, for example I’ll run into the armature. I’ll just cut a big
chunk out of the sculpture. Sometimes I can save the piece and put it back in, but I can
go in and adjust the bolts or bend the upright support structure.
I’m just free to do whatever alterations are necessary to make the piece work.
Now, on this side we’re going to kind of repeat what we’ve already done.
So again, it’s a tedious process and just being patient
enough to stick with it. Need to look for that shape that I found on the other side
of this feather that sticks out here and wraps around the eye.
It’s not quite like that big ring around an owl’s eye, but it’s similar. It has a similar feel to it.
It's almost like the eyebrow. It comes off the top of the beak right here. It actually comes
forward a little bit. Fills in. So it’s like the brow ridge on a human. So it’s
like the eyebrow right there, but it’s a bunch of feathers sticking out of the brow
ridge, and that’s where it originates, rolls out. Let me cut that back a little bit for
where the eye, the eye is a little further back here. So it comes out of that right off
the front of the brow ridge just like a big eyelash that comes out—or eyebrow, excuse
me—and it comes from the brow ridge, rolls around the head, the outer portion of the
skull, and becomes a collar. A mink wrap or some kind of a wrap around the shoulder. Somehow
it starts looking a little bit like the parrot, but it’s not quite exactly what we want.
It has that expression about it.
So as you’re working on this, talk to it and it’ll talk back. It’ll tell you what
it’s trying to do. My old friend Wayne Pratt, I used to depend on him for advice and counsel
since I respected his artistic abilities so much. I’d say, “Well, what do you think,
Wayne? Come and take a look at this.” He ‘d hum and haw and look around without saying
much for awhile. Finally he’d say, “Well, Ed, I know you. I can see right now you’re
trying to do it your way. I also know that eventually that you’ll do the clay’s way.”
Saying that the clay takes on a personality of its own, and if you’re in tune to it
sometimes you feel like you’re just observing, but you’re not really in control. Somehow
you recognize something good that happens and something else good that happens. You
keep making the subtle changes and pretty soon it takes on a personality of its own.
That’s kind of what’s beginning to happen here. I don’t know what I’m doing, really,
but yet I see something developing by way of personality here. I know I’m going to
have to make some pretty drastic changes to make it really into a real parrot that lives
and breathes almost, but yet, you can see the evolution taking place there. I hope you
can. Sometimes when we leave a smooth surface like this it’s not good.
I like to describe how those of you who studied the book on drawings or paintings by the masters,
one of the great lessons is that the old masters, when they did works of art, they didn’t
draw concave shapes. They drew a series of convex shapes that make up a concave—it’s
make it look concave but it really isn’t. What they’re doing is drawing the form.
Particularly you see that in the wrists and arms and hands and outline of the figure where
the rib cage meets the pelvic girdle. But it’s not and undercut or a negative form.
It’s not shadow. It’s not a line. It’s all of those things it’s not. But what it
is, it’s the idea that forms come together and create that illusion of line. See right
there? I can just hint at a little accent of a feather there without actually doing
anything about it. See how these cross textures. Then again I’m going to use this big texture
tool to tie that together. It doesn’t need much. It’s just that one little feather
in there. Somehow it’s describing what’s happening. Maybe I can make this come back
a little bit and something come out under it.
So it begins to take on a little bit of character. Instead of having one big round shape here,
we have a series of straight lines. It’s interesting when you watch movies of birds
in flight, and I’ve been fascinated by some of the most recent movies they’re doing
of migrating birds where they put cameras on the birds. Or the photographer will fly
in an ultra-light aircraft right next to the birds and in some cases has spent months and
months training these birds. He’s become their parent so they’re just following the
parent to wherever this person flies and photographs them and interacts with the aircraft as if
it’s another bird. But you see all these subtle little things that you ordinarily don’t
see from just mere photographs or see from other sources. You can see those feathers
on the back of the bird. As they’re in flight the low air pressure sucks those feathers
up in the air, and it spoils the air and actually gives them greater lift.
See there is a little nice gesture right there in that, it looks like the end of a feather.
But let’s make something out of it. Let’s make it say something. Maybe it says the wrong
thing but we’ll try it. If we overdo that then it will. It’ll make too much noise.
It’s like hearing a good note in music. It sounds so good and you keep playing it
over and over until it becomes monotonous and boring. We don’t want to do that. So
let’s just discover little things as we go along.
This is where I feel the strength
in that joint needs to be, up here.
That’s merely a little short feather sticking out there. Somehow it works.
Also, on the back of the head I notice this, I call it fur, but it’s really feathers, very fine
feathers that look like fur. It’s a downy feather instead of a big feather with a solid
root, solid structure. Just sort of waves in the wind like it’s almost a satiny, very
fine material. So this soft, feathery, downy-type feather back here. Then the longer feathers
grow out behind, underneath that, and project themselves here.
about a few things that’ll help us wrap this session up and give you enough that you
can start with and at least try blocking in a bird now. Again, birds come in all sizes
and different types. You know there are raptors that are really searching for prey, and they’re
very aggressive types. They’re the owl who hunts at night. The song birds, big waterfowl.
There is a tremendous variety in birds. All of I’ve done is just shown you kind of what
my approach to blocking in a bird would be. Looking again for this unique architectural
frame, the skeletal frame that’s underneath all of the feathers and all of the muscles
and trying to help you see that you cannot really violate the architectural frame if
you’re going to do a credible job. So that’s the first thing to look for.
Now, as we get closer to refining this let’s just talk for a minute about feathers because
feathers have a long structural core, long feathers, that are very strong. The stem of
the feather has a tremendous amount of strength. If you get a feather and try to bend it, I
mean it’s fairly difficult to break. You can’t break it, but you notice how it starts
at one end and slowly tapers to the end where it attaches to the bird. Many birds molt.
Every year they lose all their feathers and grow new ones. So there are times of year
when they can’t fly at all. They just don’t have the feathers to fly. Of course, nature
has planned that into the right season of the year so they’re not trying to find food
for their young offspring. But when you look at the stem of the feather and see its structure,
and you see these stems coming off the main stem that have kind of a fuzzy—it’s actually
a cross-hatching. It’s like this. It’s a matrix that locks into the stem that’s
next to it. But it has a beautiful shape, and once in a while you’ll see those shapes
on the feathers. So let’s just think about that. As you get this far along and then you
become a little more concerned about the finger detail you can actually go study that. What
I tend to do is I go to an encyclopedia or a book on ornithology and study birds and
study how the structure of the feathers, the structure of the bones, and all of those more
Watch what happens when I just add a little piece of feather right there. Just let something
stick out once in awhile. It doesn’t mean anything but it adds just a feeling of spontaneity.
You don’t want to overdo that. You don’t want to put five of them there. You just want
to put one once in a while. But as you study the feather, its construction and its asymmetry
and the pattern of how it connects. Different feathers have different functions. Some are
very short feathers. Some are downy feathers, very fuzzy feathers. Others are long and very
tough and strong. So they serve different purposes. In aviation it’s like thinking
of the purpose of the—for example, the wing, the bottom, the stem of the wing hits the
air at a certain angle where the end of the wing has a little different angle. They call
it wash-out. It supports the end of the wing at a different airspeed. When an airplane
stalls in the air there is a system to the way they want the wing to stall so you can
quickly regain control. The wing has ailerons that are like a bird’s tipped feathers.
Those 12 primary feathers, it can rotate those feathers and guide where it’s going just
by the angle that those feathers approach the air.
Birds can feel temperature. They can feel air pressure. They can feel all of the dynamics
that are going on with the air that help them in flight. So this is a very straight line.
So we’ll make that a little more round. We’ll make it a little more interesting.
So what I suggest from this point on is that you get your work to this point, and this
is just the beginning. So we’ll come back, and if we do some more on birds we’ll get
into much more detail on what you can do to refine your work, what you can look for in
design. We haven’t talked about design, really. We’ve kept the design very simple
here. We just simply connected something that works, that has structure enough to it that
it’ll hold on. So it’s just a bird sitting here. It has no particular line that’s beautiful.
No story that it’s trying to tell or no significance in the gesture we’re putting
in it, unlike the horse and some of the other things that we do that we sort of just have
a tendency to build a lot of design into it as we go. This is a little more exploratory
and just trying to learn the basics of what we’re doing and blocking in.
So that’s hopefully a good start. So go to an aviary. Hang out with birds. Get around
them. If you have a pet bird you can work from your pet bird and just continue to learn.
Do the blocking in as I suggest, and then start looking for design elements and proportion.
I haven’t even measured this. I have no clue whether my head to my body is really
in proportion or not. At some point you need to go measure. You may have to cut the head
down in size. You may have to stretch the body out a little more. I could probably push
it in and pull that bird up and make it into a taller, thinner looking bird.
So again, you’re free to express yourself in many ways. Hopefully that’s helpful.
As you explore this I would suggest that you take clay, and you can actually just lay clay
up on a board. Get a feather, practice modeling a feather. Get several different types of
feathers. A short feather like the feathers that are on the inside of the wing, closer
to the body. There are several groups. Again, we could talk about the structure, but that’s
not our objective today. But once you learn what those feather groups are and how many
there are in each group and how certain birds are similar. Other birds are very different
in the arrangement of feathers but they have still the same basic form and function.
Just do a feather. On a board lay out a feather, model it. Notice that if you can find a big
feather, a turkey feather or a large raptor’s father, a tail feather, a wing feather. Wing
feathers, the leading edge, the primaries are very different from the secondaries.
So I encourage you to do some research, and in your research you go the encyclopedia or
go to the internet and find out about the anatomy of a feather, how it’s built, how
it’s shaped, which feathers have different shapes to them. Look at not just the flat
shape of the feather. But if you were to look at the end of the feather and see how it bends
across that core, and then it comes down and twists as it goes out to the feathery edge.
All of those things will help you do a better job in your sculpture. I’m going to leave
the refining now to you. So if you get it this far now it’s up to you to do additional
research and figure out what you want to explore to try to refine the look of the bird to make it look right.
So there is a lot of variety in it. Look back to the elemental principles of design as well.
You know you have to have proportion, anatomy, design, and whatever else; the storyline or
content, whatever you build into a piece of art. But before you can do all of that into
one piece, you need to start with just the elemental fundamental things. So we started
with some shapes here and just the feeling of feathers and just a simple study.
So, good luck to you.